While one of my earlier articles gave strategies for dealing with papers as they come in, this article will provide guidelines on how long to save them.
There are some papers that should be kept forever. In fact, copies should be made of these to ensure you have them in the event of emergencies. These include legal papers describing who you are and what you own. Birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage and divorce documents, death certificates of immediate family, social security documents, deeds and titles to property, medical history, retirement and IRA records, driver's license and passports are examples of these items. At least one copy should be kept in a fireproof or waterproof box kept in your home for instant access.
Other papers should be kept for a specific length of time but not necessarily forever:
Receipts or bill of sale and manuals of equipment should be kept as long as you own the item. Warranties or guarantees for jewelry and other significant purchases should be kept with the receipt until the item is lost, sold or replaced.
Insurance policies should be kept for as long as their coverage is in effect.
Medical claims should be kept until the claim is satisfied. Save documents used for tax deductible claims with those returns.
Payroll stubs should be kept until the end of the year and checked against the W-2 forms provided by the employer. If they show funds withheld for charitable organizations such as United Way that are claimed as deductions on your tax return, the end of the year stub should be filed with the tax return.
Tax returns should be kept for 3-7 years unless you have failed to file a return or have filed a fraudulent return. The IRS has 6 years to challenge a return if it thinks you have under reported your gross income by 25%. The IRS has 3 years to audit a return. Keep all receipts and documents relating to deduction claims with the tax forms. This IRS web site link spells out the specifics: http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0%2C%2Cid=98513%2C00.html
Statements from your securities or brokerage firms should be kept until a new one arrives and the last one when the securities are sold to report a gain or loss. That transaction document should be saved with the tax return.
Bank records and other monthly credit card, installment, utility etc. statements should be reconcilled each month and then may be shredded unless needed for tax return purposes. These institutions have the financial history on computer or micro files should they need to be recovered.
It is important to mention many statements as well as other documents can now be sent online to personal computers where they can be stored in one of many options. This can reduce the paper required for them unless needed for documentation to tax returns.
These are guidelines and suggestions and if you have questions or concerns, you should consult your accountant. Hopefully, they will help to tackle and reduce the amount of papers kept so they are easier to organize. For more strategies please feel free to contact me through my web site: www.OrderlyPlaces.com
Illustrations from Pendaflex
Books have been written on the subject of organizing household papers and I have a chapter on it in my own book. This article, however, will simply address the basic needs that everyone should have to control the paper piles.
Paper comes into the house through the door on the people entering either from the mailbox, in a tote bag or briefcase, etc. At that time there should be a place to put them. A container of some type should be conveniently placed to collect those papers and preferably have a system of categories to sort them. This simple inbox/basket can be as large or small as the family requires but should hold the papers vertically in sections so they can be retrieved as soon as needed. Some frequently used categories are: Bills, To Do/Respond, To File (permanently), To Read, Receipts, Coupons, etc. Vertical sorting and storage allows easy access in finding a specific item later on.
A companion container would be a Household Notebook that contains information frequently needed by the family. While a calendar might have the date of Johnny's soccer game, the notebook might hold the information sheet containing the other game information such as which field, the color jersey to wear, who has refreshments, etc. The notebook could contain frequently needed and emergency contact numbers, babysitter information, school schedules, menu ideas, etc.
A permanent file box, drawer or cabinet is recommended for permanent papers such as insurance policies, medical history and information, appliance manuals, automobile records, financial statements, etc. Papers filed here are for future reference when needed and should be separated by appropriate categories. About once a year it should be cleaned of items no longer needed. Most financial and purchasing records are now stored online or in computer records at the institutions or retail outlets. This eliminates the need for long term storage of some paper items. Those used as documentation of tax related deductions should be kept with the tax return forms.
Finally, we recommend storing legal documents and those that may be needed in an emergency in a fireproof/waterproof box in your home or bank's safe security box. Copies might also be given to trustworthy relatives as an off site option. Having more than one copy of vital information can help in locating it in an emergency.
Putting the items needed for good paper management is just the first step in keeping paperwork under control. Keeping them organized requires persistence in following your system and avoiding the temporary put down of papers on a table or counter. Over time this stack can become an unmanageable pile and even mutate into unrelated items. More detailed information, retention guidelines for keeping papers and illustrations of paperwork systems can be received from me or located in my book, Orderly Places. You may contact me through my website: OrderlyPlaces.com
Adding accessories to an outfit is like putting frosting on a cake. They make the ensemble look even better. If fashions never changed we would have few problems keeping them organized. We know, however, that each year brings new colors and styles in jewelry, belts, scarves, etc. so we add more and more items to our collection. Keeping them organized becomes an issue when we allow them to accumulate. There is no perfect way to store them but they should be purged and sorted just as you would any other items in your home. Her are some tips to help in the process.
Keep only the items you are currently using and coordinate with the garments you now own. If you are not wearing valuable or heirloom pieces, consider storing them in a safe deposit box or other secure location.
Keep like items together and containerize or separate them on racks, etc.
Throw away the little boxes that held the jewelry when purchased. If needed for repair or returns, store them elsewhere.
Shoe bags with pockets across the front are good chooices for separating and storing scarves, gloves, and larger pieces of jewelry. Similar bags with smaller pockets are avilable for smaller jewelry, hair bows, clips and pins.
Peg racks and other hooks can be used for necklaces, belts and ties.
Shallow drawers can be used for jewelry that is placed in divided containers. These can be stacked if space allows.
Specialty containers with varying sizes of compartments can be purchased and placed on dresser tops or in drawers. Be sure to measure and count the number of compartments you need before purchasing those.
The hidden space behind the entry door to the bedroom or swinging closet doors can be used to hang accessory items. There are many types of over the door hangers to accommodate all types of accessories.
Consider limiting your earrings to one par of gold, silver, or pearl posts or hoops. These choices look nice with any other accessories and outfits and make getting dressed so much faster and storage much simpler.
Less is more when wearing and storing accessories. A few nice pieces each season will add just the right accent to your wardrobe and will make organizing them much easier. If you have questions or comment or need more information, visit our website: www.OrderlyPlaces.com